An Update From Fiji
By: the Neals
“So… what exactly do you do?” our visiting friend asked. It’s a good question.
What does it mean to be a mission partner that works in theological education?
We teach. Wes and I teach future pastors at Davuilevu Theological College. We teach Preaching, Pastoral Care, World Religions, and Theology. We teach Christian Education and Research and Writing Skills.
We mentor. We serve as mentors for a group of about 10 students – our matasiga family group. We teach pastor’s wives how to conduct bible studies. We lead small groups in our home. We advise. We are currently advising two student thesis projects. Wes’ student is writing on how the church can alleviate poverty in local villages, and Jerusha’s student is writing on how the church can better offer support to women fighting breast cancer. We edit. Jerusha is editing the first edition of the college’s academic journal, Na Uli. This edition speaks about the challenges of honoring diversity and unity in the church by looking at the church’s clothing practices. What do the clothes we wear say about our faith? For Fijian Christians, the answer is, “Quite a lot!” We coordinate. As Library Coordinator, Wes has been getting the technology and person-power in place to enter the 13,000 volumes in the library into a digital catalog (2,000 down – 11,000 to go). We review. As Dean of Studies, Jerusha has been compiling a committee to review Davuilevu’s curriculum and working to get the school accredited by the Fiji Higher Education Commission. We preach and lead retreats. We regularly preach at churches near and far and are grateful for all opportunities!
But of course…these official sounding tasks only give one part of the story… What does it mean to be a mission partner in theological education?
We pray… for our students who are sick and do not have funds for treatment…for the faculty member who suddenly lost his young brother after losing his wife last year…for the healing of the ethnic tension that holds the church back from embracing its neighbors. We dream…with our Fijian brothers and sisters about how the church can better live out its calling. Currently, there is a dream to coordinate the many educational projects of the church into a single University structure – providing job training in remote villages and keeping theological training connected to the lives of the Fijian people. We proclaim…the goodness of God and the ways that God’s kingdom is sprouting up amidst all manner of challenges! We worship…every day with our Fijian neighbors. We celebrate…new babies, student weddings and Fiji’s World Champion Rugby Sevens standing. We weep…with those who mourn all that has been lost through globalization and colonialism, those who mourn the shortcomings of God’s people, and those who mourn the lives and voices to violence. We struggle…alongside women and men who are training a new generation what it means to treat all with dignity and respect. We weave…together the voices and concerns of churches back home with churches here in Fiji – looking for common threads and diverse patterns. We share your stories here, just as we share Fiji’s stories with you. We learn…what it means to live in a multicultural community in the day-to-day work of living… in the nitty-gritty details of working in a garden, planning a funeral, dressing for chapel, serving tea and listening to stories while sitting on a woven mat. Perhaps most importantly…we fail, apologize, and try again. And thanks be to God, Christ’s grace is sufficient.
We thank you so much for your prayers…both for our official “work” and for the larger work of God gives those tasks meaning. You can support our ministry online at www.umcmission.org/jneal and www.umcmission.org/wneal - or give to our Advance numbers through your local congregation: (Jerusha #3021963, Wes #3021964).
We are proud to be your missionaries.
Love, Wes, Jerusha, Mercy and Josiah
Prayer Concerns: Please keep the curriculum review, the library project, the well-being of our students and the vision of the Fijian church in your prayers. May God form leaders who stand firm in gospel hope!